College Football Picks: Houston Will Improve to 7-0 & Cover ATS vs. UCF

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, October 21, 2015 9:26 PM GMT

It looks like a complete mismatch in AAC action on Saturday in Orlando as No. 21 and unbeaten Houston visits winless Central Florida for the Knights' homecoming. UH is -21.5 on Ladbrokes' college football odds with a total of 57.

Houston Rolling Through Opponents
It's really a shame that Houston and Memphis are stuck in the same West Division of the AAC because both are 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the league. Obviously only one can win the division and thus have a shot at the Group of 5's spot in a New Year's Six bowl. If you are wondering, the Cougars host the No. 18 Tigers on Nov. 14. The winner of that game figures to meet currently unbeaten Temple in the AAC title game.

Two of the hottest coaching candidates in the nation are Houston's Tom Herman and Memphis' Justin Fuente. Both reportedly are on a short list for the open South Carolina job along with Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. Herman, the former Ohio State offensive coordinator is in just his first year as a head coach, however.

The Cougars have one of the nation's top dual-threat quarterbacks in Greg Ward Jr. The junior is tied wish LSU running back Leonard Fournette, the Heisman favorite, for the national lead with 14 rushing scores even though Ward has 57 fewer rushing attempts. Ward leads the AAC and is seventh nationally with an average of 359.2 yards of total offense per game. He is the only player nationally to average over 200 passing yards per game (260.4) and over 100 rushing yards per game (110.8). Houston ranks 10th in rushing offense (279.2) and 28th nationally in passing offense (275.5).

Houston has won every game but one by at least 14 points. The only close call was a 34-31 win at Louisville on Sept. 12. UH comes off a 42-7 win at Tulane last Friday. The Cougars are No. 5 nationally in scoring at 45.7 ppg.

UH is 4-2 against the spread on college football odds and 3-2-1 'over/under.'

 

Worst Season Ever At UCF?
What the heck has happened at Central Florida? Very recently this was an excellent program, one of the best outside the Power 5 Conferences. In 2013, UCF was the AAC champion and upset Baylor 52-42 in the Fiesta Bowl to complete the best season in school history at 12-1. Last year, post-Blake Bortles, the Knights still finished a solid 9-4, losing a close game to NC State in the St. Petersburg Bowl.

There will be no postseason play this year for UCF as it is 0-7. The only other winless teams in the FBS are Kansas (Big 12), North Texas (Conference USA and already fired its coach) and New Mexico State (Sun Belt). The future of Coach George O'Leary is a hot topic. Recently, he stepped down as the school's interim athletic director to focus on coaching. O'Leary was named the school's interim athletic director last June after Todd Stansbury accepted a position with Oregon State. But O'Leary's coaching future has been in question for a while amid rumors he will retire after this lost season. O'Leary recently denied that his contract contained language that allowed O'Leary to perhaps have a coach-in-waiting on his staff. In the past, O’Leary has touted offensive coordinator Brent Key as a candidate for his job whenever O'Leary does step down. If the Knights finish winless, the school might force O'Leary to quit even if he doesn't want to.

Central Florida has come close to winning twice, losing 15-14 at home to Florida International in Week 1 and 16-15 at home to FCS school Furman on Sept. 19. It was the Paladins' first win over an FBS school since 1999, ending their 15-game losing streak. UCF lost to a FCS team for the first time since the Knights moved up to FBS in 1996. The Knights haven't come close to winning since then, dropping the past four by at least 14 points each.

UCF ranks 86th in scoring defense, allowing 29.7 points per game. Offense has been the problem as the school is second-to-last in the FBS in scoring 15.7 ppg. Sixteen different Knights have earned their first collegiate starts on offense this year.

The Knights are 1-6 ATS on college football picks this season and 3-3-1 O/U.

 

Last Meeting
UCF won in Houston 17-12 last season to open AAC play. Brandon Alexander forced a game-saving fumble with 24 seconds left, hitting the arm of Ward Jr. as he dove and stretched for the end-zone pylon at the end of a 19-yard run. The ball came loose and was ruled a touchback. Alexander also had nine tackles and an interception. Justin Holman was 6-for-18 for 101 yards and two scores for UCF. Breshad Perriman, a first-round pick by Baltimore in the 2015 draft, had a 52-yard TD catch. Ward was 10-for-17 for 116 yards and rushed nine times for nine yards -- he was splitting time with John O'Korn back then. UCF owns a 5-1 record in the series. Five of the six in the series have been decided by seven points or fewer.

College Football Picks: Hate to give that many points to a home team but do so with Houston at Ladbrokes. Go 'over' the total. Houston is 5-0 ATS in its past five road games vs. teams with a losing home record. UCF is 1-7 ATS in its past eight overall. The 'over' is 5-0 in UCF's past five vs. teams with a winning record.